Radford University receives millions to produce graduates in response to Amazon HQ2

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RADFORD – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has announced the creation of the Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP), a statewide workforce initiative that will poise Radford University as a lead institution in producing graduates prepared to fill the emerging tech talent pipeline.

Through the TTIP, Radford University is expected to receive approximately $17.3 million in funding over the next 20 years to produce nearly 400 additional graduates beyond current degree production. The new program, announced by Governor Northam during an event at Virginia State University, is the result of Amazon’s construction of a second headquarters, HQ2, in Northern Virginia. Amazon, a multinational technology company, plans to hire 25,000 employees for its new location over the next decade.

“This initiative is an investment in Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s tech sector will continue booming only if we can train the workforce those jobs require. With today’s announcement, we are educating a workforce that will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies around the Commonwealth, including at Amazon, helping boost our economy and quality of life in every corner of Virginia.”

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., said, “Radford University is honored to be selected to participate in the Commonwealth’s Tech Talent Investment Program. Designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Division of Homeland Security, Radford University has a strong academic background and proven history that continues to grow in new and profound ways, including a new delivery platform through the Chachra IMPACT Program and a new program offering of the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity.  Both of these advancements marked a first-of-its-kind endeavor at a four-year public institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

As part of the historic announcement, President Hemphill added, “As a leader in the Commonwealth and as articulated in our five-year strategic plan, Radford University is garnering recognition for signature academic programs that provide expertise for enhancing information safety and security for Virginians and the global community. I am so pleased with the progress we are making in expanding access for our students and the impact we are having in enhancing security for our citizens. Participation in the Tech Talent Investment Program marks another significant step forward for Radford University in serving the Commonwealth, our nation and the world.”

Radford University will implement several strategic initiatives, focused on community college partnerships, expanded degree pathways and improved retention efforts, to double its number of graduates, specifically those in the Artis College of Science and Technology’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Technology program. The program is designed to produce professionals with expertise in a range of technical skills that are highly sought after, including cybersecurity and software development.

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, the Artis College’s Department of Information and Technology Curriculum Committee will develop an online, asynchronous degree completion program to be offered to students enrolled in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). The program will provide a path to a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Technology for students currently unable to attend a traditional on-campus program.

According to Artis College Associate Dean and Department of Information Technology Chair Art Carter, Ph.D., students participating in this program will take general education courses at their respective community colleges and complete an Associate of Science degree. Then they will take junior- and senior-level courses through the new Computer Science and Technology online program and earn a bachelor’s degree from Radford University. The program will be offered in both part- and full-time formats, allowing flexibility for students juggling jobs and other commitments, Carter said.

As part of the curriculum development process, faculty members will be assigned liaisons to each of the partnering community colleges. The liaison will work with the faculty at the community college and the Department of Information Technology’s Curriculum Committee to select coursework for the new concentration, develop any new classes needed and possibly modify existing coursework to improve the alignment of Radford University with community college curriculum.

In addition to current faculty, new faculty will be hired to teach classes for the online program, Carter said. Courses will include software development, cybersecurity, database, networking and various programming courses. The program is expected to begin during Fall 2020 with a target enrollment of 10 students. Target enrollment is expected to increase to 35 in the second year, and the third year and beyond will be 50 additional students. The first cohort of students is expected to graduate in May 2022.

In addition to focusing on community college partnerships, the Artis College will develop double major pathways for students in the Departments of Physics, Mathematics and Statistics, and Information Technology.  There will also be an increased focus on the engagement and success of students enrolled in the on-campus programs that are responding to the needs of the growing tech talent pipeline.

Several administrators and faculty members have worked diligently throughout the past eight months to ensure Radford University was among the institutions from across the Commonwealth to be considered for the TTIP. In addition to Carter, key contributors include Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Chad A. Reed; Associate Vice President for Finance and Operations Sharon Barrett; Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kenna M. Colley, Ed.D.; and Artis College of Science and Technology Dean Orion Rogers, Ph.D.

On behalf of the working group, Rogers said, “We are honored to be selected for this prestigious achievement. We are always looking for ways to contribute to the Commonwealth, and this will enhance our ability to provide opportunities for our students.”

Mary Hardbarger

Radford University